Academician Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh was born in professor's family with traditions laid by his grandfathers - Full General of Artillery A.N.Skvortsov (maternal) and M.F.Keldysh (paternal) who had graduated a theological seminary but took the medical path then and rose to the rank of General. M.V.Keldysh had been never making a secret of the fact he was born nobly - he always answered the "social background" question from a form as "nobleman". In 1930s and later years, such a personal fact could hardly be of advantage. Repressions of the late 1930s did not pass by Keldysh family either. So the beginning of his life course did not promise to be continued in any unordinary way. On graduation from physics and mathematics departement of MSU on July 24, 1931, he was assigned to work at Central Institute of AeroHydrodynamics (CIAH). Urgent words in his favor were told the CIAH administration by his teacher M.A.Lavrentiev who was one of the chief researches of the CIAH General Theoretics Group and who became an academician and Keldysh's senior fellow.
So he was 20 when he was offered a job at the famous aircraft research center. Yet in
1933, his first works had captured attention of a famous scientist, CIAH scientific supervisor
S.A.Chaplygin. These works were scientifically valuable not only for providing solutions to the topical problems but also for they gave birth to new approaches in using mathematical methods for solving hydro and aerodynamics problems which was of great importance. For aviation of 1930s, one of these was a problem of fighting down the "flutter" effect occurring unexpectedly as a plane was picking up the speed. S.A.Chaplygin had unveiled M.V.Keldysh's secret talent for engineering, his high sense of responsibility sprung from a good breeding, and his ability to work as hard as required, and so set the young theorist, mathematician and mechanician a task with the solution had to be implemented immediately.
In all of the developed countries, the aircraft construction industry had been stumbling on
the flutter effect, but in our country it was overcome earlier and in a wider variety of aspects than elsewhere, thanks to the works of M.V.Keldysh and his colleagues. Even today, one may find it very interesting to read those works where the conclusions being based on complicated mathematical researches are worded very simply, and the practical methods are expounded upon which prevent the aircraft auto-oscillation (flutter) from emerging within a full range of flying speeds. Since that moment, the flutter effect had not been keeping the development of high-speed aviation down anymore. So by the time World War II began, our aircraft industry got rid of this disease, while our enemy did not. These were the works M.V.Keldysh (in common with Ye.P.Grossman) was awarded his first Second Class Stalin Prize in 1942 for, and a year hence he was decorated with his first Order of Red Banner of Labor.
During the war Mstislav Vsevolodovich, head of one of the CIAH departments, worked
for aircraft factories supervising antiflutter constructions. Those years, the next problem of the aircraft industry arose from a switchover to the three-support landing gear system with the front wheel. The switchover - today we see it as the only way - was forced by increasing launching and landing speed of airplanes. However, it caused some troubles - as a plane reached a certain speed, a self-excited oscillation of the front leg of landing gear started that resulted in the leg breakdown. Such a phenomenon was called "shimmy". Making use of the experience acquired from researches on flutter, and realizing his high scientific potential for mathematics and mechanics in the work titled "Shimmy of the Front Wheel in Three-Wheel Landing Gear" (1945),
M.V.Keldysh solves the problem completely in the abstract and sets down the practical
engineering prescriptions that help to save the construction from this dangerous effect as well. The work was awarded the second Stalin Prize in 1946, and mathematicians making mentions of it are still giving it an inevitable epithet "beautiful".
Back in the middle of the 1930s academician I.M.Vinogradov invited M.V.Keldysh to the
V.A.Steklov Mathematics Institute of Academy of Science of USSR (MIAS) for doctoral studies.
In 1938 he had defended here his thesis for a Doctor's degree titled "Complex Variable and
Harmonic Functions Representation by Polynomial Series". Experts had considered it as a
classical one that had finalized a large amount of researches in an important subdivision of
mathematics and at the same time opened a new stage. By the end of the war M.V.Keldysh who kept working in CIAH found an opportunity to get back to the scientific activity at MIAS where the Mechanics Department was established in April 1944. M.V.Keldysh headed this department, too, till 1953. Eventually, rocket dynamics and applied celestial mechanics became the main targets of the department. We will tell about it below.
M.V.Keldysh's works on mathematics and mechanics written in the middle 1940s were
immediately accorded recognition by colleagues and scientists, while the author had gained
prominence in the scientific world. In 1943 M.V.Keldysh was elected a Corresponding Member of Academy of Science of USSR, and became a Full Member in 1946.
With the hard-won victory in World War II our country felt like taking a second breath.
Despite the breakup and famine, the enthusiasm and faith in the future let the community direct its attention towards new serious problems. The confrontation arisen between the winner powers, and memories of the late cruel war settled the idea of the necessity for defense reinforcement in the consciousness of our country citizens. The synonyms to the strengthening of the defensive power were then creation of the atom weapon and rearmament with the rocket hardware. M.V.Keldysh as a scientist who had given a good account of himself by his scientific and engineering researches was involved in both projects. For the atomic issues M.V.Keldysh created and led the calculation bureau, and together with MIAS mechanics division it was a part of Department of Applied Mathematics (DAM) of MIAS that he had organized in 1953. A unique staff of specialists was gathered here under his guidance.
Since late 1940s M.V.Keldysh switches to a basically different activity, with the scientific
management aspect brought to the forefront. He leads large scientific engineering groups, RI-1 and DAM of MIAS (renamed into Institute of Applied Mathematics (IAM) of Academy of Science of the USSR in 1966), is a chairman of responsible committees, then Member of Presidium
But even the incredible pressing work conditions did not make M.V.Keldysh steep in
administrative management, and he remained a creative scientific director, problem bearer, and author of ideas and problem solutions. Acting as organizer, he was making his decisions going only by the interest of business not other things such as political reasons. His track record proves it.
As he had come to RI-1 the sphere of his creative activity began to include problems
concerning the creation of jet propulsion high-power units for aerodynamic missile equipment
accompanied with a range of engineering issues on supersonic gas dynamics, heat and mass exchange, heat shielding, etc. In 1959 the first aerodynamic missile in the world had passed the tests and displayed better performance than the Navajo missile being designed in USA the same time.
In 1954, M.V.Keldysh, S.P.Korolev, and M.K.Tikhomirov submitted a letter to the
Government that suggested creating an Earth artificial satellite. Next year M.V.Keldysh was
appointed chairman of an ad hoc satellite committee at the Academy of Science.
The launch of the first satellite in 1957 ushered in a new era in the outer space
development. Keldysh started works at the DAM of MIAS on the satellite tracking and trajectory
predicting, space vehicle interplanetary flight ballistic designing with the minimal power
consumption level et al. Discovering a space vehicle acceleration scheme that implies injecting a satellite into staging orbit, and using the planetary gravitational field for purposive mechanical
trajectory change are examples of brilliant solutions. These solutions turned out to be crucial for
In 1959, M.V.Keldysh was appointed chairman of Interdepartmental Scientific and
Technical Space Research Council at the Academy of Science of USSR formed by the
Government in order to coordinate research work. Holding this office, Mstislav Vsevolodovich
was able to carry out a balanced research program guaranteeing a fine combination of all the
aspects of outer space development. This was proved by the world recognition of our country
success and respect for M.V.Keldysh who was elected President of the Academy of Science in May 1961 and led the Academy for 14 years.
Now let us get back to the year of 1946 and watch Mstislav Vsevolodovich taking part in
resolving the atomic problem, though his activity could be hardly divided into independent parts.
«Soon after the war», recalled academician I.M.Vinogradov, MIAS director, «Yu.B.Khariton and
other physicists came to me. They asked to recommend a mathematician who could run
calculations on atomic subjects. I told them to take Keldysh, for he can puzzle out any
application of mathematics better than anyone. They liked Keldysh.»
However, the computational resources available by that time could not cope with amount
of calculations required in practice. They had to create and master new means of computation, the electronic computers. That was a state business, a matter of paramount importance for finding a solution to the problem of takeover of the atomic energy. M.V.Keldysh himself had not been dealing with computer designing, but he was the first who ordered such equipment and the first large consumer of it. The institute that he headed had to invent calculation methods and then apply them to computers to solve the fall range of atomic problems. It has to be admitted that the
Substantial contribution made by Mstislav Vsevolodovich to this titanic work on solving atomic, rocket, and space problems included not only providing guidance for the staff but also Ms
personal participation as author and developer of the new calculation methods and algorithms.
These works predestined the modem evolution of computing mathematics in our country,
including numerical methods for mathematical physics problem solving in the first instance.
In recognition of his deserts in solving problems of defense M.V.Keldysh was titled the
Íåãî of Socialist Labor in 1956 and awarded Lenin Prize in 1957.
Election M.V.Keldysh the President had materially changed both the proceedings of the
Presidium itself and the status of the Academy altogether. A cliche "the Academy became
headquarters of the Soviet science" that was frequently used then started making more and more sense. Thanks to his immense scientific authority and deep respect from leading scientists M.V.Keldysh managed to gather a group of like-minded persons. They had left no stone unturned in order to purge a number of important scientific regions such as biology of "false doctrines", gain exculpation from political accusations with all the ensuing consequences and regenerate genetics and cybernetics as scientific domains, and provide conditions for the development of new fields of science such as molecular biology, quantum electronics, etc.
The strides of our country in resolving the key sci-tech problems showed everybody that
the fundamental science is turning the main driving force of community evolution, and therefore it should fill a niche of its own in the life of the country. Keldysh as both President of the Academy and the nation-famous public figure had contributed much to the realization of this idea. He paid particular attention to determining the main lines: "what has to be supported, and what has to be supported less". The years of M.V.Keldysh presidentship were the period of the fastest upgrowth of the Academy of Science, which turned into a core of fundamental science. In
Despite his high position in the power structure M.V.Keldysh had never been a party line
zealot. He had always been a patriot of his country in the eminent sense, a true Russian
intellectual. He was devoted to the service of science with his whole heart. When a cmel disease made him unavailable to keep on working at a habitual pace, he decided he must leave the post of President. He quitted it in 1975 the day before the celebration of 250th anniversary of the Academy. Most probably, the disease that made rapid progress and led to his premature end was caused not only by heavy load of exhausting daily work but also by mental discomfort because of dissatisfaction about unperformed designs that he felt last years. He was 67 when he died. He was immured in the Kremlin wall on the Red Square.
Name of Mstislav Vsevolodovich Keldysh is eternalized with the names of the research
ship, solar system planetoid, lunar crater, and square in Moscow.
Also his name bear the former RI-1 (now M.V.Keldysh Research Center) and the Institute of Applied Mathematics founded by him where documents that tell about him are being compiled and saved with love in his Memorial Chamber Museum.
There are busts put up to him in Moscow on Alley of Heroes and on Miusskaya Square and in Riga, and memorial plaques on the buildings where he lived and worked. His deeds are kept forever in the scientific works and in the way traveled by the country and the mankind in general. Everyone who had the luck to know him personally or work with him is keeping carefully his memory. M.V.Keldysh Golden Medal instituted by the Academy of Science of USSR is given for outstanding scientific works on applied mathematics and mechanics and theoretical researches on outer space development.